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Published in Print: September 16, 1998, as Enrollment Hits Another Record High, Study Finds

Enrollment Hits Another Record High, Study Finds

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For the third year in a row, the nation's school enrollment has hit an all-time high.

Public and private school students stepped into their classrooms this fall 52.7 million strong, surpassing last fall's enrollment by a half-million students, according to a study released last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

For More Information

Read the U.S. Department of Education's third annual special report on the baby boom echo, "America's Schools Are Overcrowded and Wearing Out."

Such growth, tied to the so-called baby boom echo and increased immigration, is expected to continue for at least eight more years, pushing districts to hire more teachers and build more schools.

Of the 52.7 million K-12 students expected this year, 46.8 million are public school students and 5.9 million are attending private schools.

Most states are feeling some impact from the increasing student population, according to "America's Schools Are Overcrowded and Wearing Out," the department's third annual back-to-school study of the effects of the baby boom echo. But big states such as California, Texas, and Florida and such cities as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami are bearing the brunt of the growth. ("West, South To Bear Brunt of Enrollment Boom," Sept. 3, 1997.)

"Each year, the message gets stronger," said Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the commissioner of the department's National Center for Education Statistics. "This is a problem that's going to be with us."

Much of the enrollment increase has also been in suburban districts. The report specifically looked at rapidly growing suburban areas in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, and Washington state.

"As these projections now show, we're going to need 2.2 million additional teachers over the next decade to accommodate the rising student population," Richard W. Riley, the secretary of education, said about the study in a written statement.

Growing Out West

The greatest growth over the next decade will be in grades 9-12, the department estimates, with 1.5 million more students attending public high schools; the next-largest increase is projected for grades 6-8.

The report predicts decreases and then a leveling-off of enrollment in preschool and the lower elementary grades over the next five to 10 years as the U.S. birthrate stabilizes.

Overall public and private school enrollment is expected to increase to 54.2 million over the next 10 years.

Large enrollment increases are expected in the West and the South over the next decade, the report says, while enrollment in the Northeast and the Midwest is expected to decline. In the West, enrollment will surge by 11.1 percent, and in the South, it will increase by 3.8 percent.

At least 2.2 million teachers will need to be hired over the next decade to keep up with the booming student population and to replace teachers who retire or otherwise leave the profession, the report says.

The greatest need for teachers will be in grades 9-12 over the next decade.

Schools already are having difficulty finding qualified teachers--especially in the fields of mathematics, science, special education, and bilingual education; currently, more than 13 percent of public and private school teachers lack full certification in the fields in which they teach.

The report also cites a 1995 U.S. General Accounting Office study that says it will take $112 billion to upgrade and retrofit school buildings.

The GAO study says 60 percent of all schools report a need for extensive repairs or for replacement of at one least one major building feature.

The study also found record-breaking college enrollment. About 240,000 more students are expected to attend the nation's colleges this year, for a total enrollment of 14.6 million.

Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 3

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